Dissonance Effect | People believe what they want to believe

"People believe, what they want to believe"

The Dissonance Effect is a psychological defence mechanism.

Your psyche has certain defence mechanisms. Those defence mechanisms‘ purpose is to let you think good of yourself regardless of how questionable something was. We subconsciously barry bad behaviour or actions under justifications, arguments or oppose it with something even worse to make our action seem not so bad.

Therefore: People believe what they want to believe.

This effect is important for branding and marketing in multiple ways. But we first have to understand the psychological effect.

Let me give you a little story about that.

Anna claims to be environmentally friendly. She only buys organic food at the farmer’s market and tries to separate her waste. The set of values of being environmentally friendly is associated with her being something positive and future-facing.


Positive Self Image 

Those are the set of values, we want to give ourselves because we think those make us a good person.

True Image

Those are our true set of values we might not even know we have.

Anna also loves to go on cruises with her friends. She likes to see many places in a short period and the calmness of the sea. Non either the less, the fact of cruises not being environmentally friendly can be hardly overseen.

Annas’s psyche now defences her positive self-image of being environmentally friendly.
When Anna is asked about her cruises, she answers that flying to an all-inclusive hotel is not environmentally friendly either. Or she argues that driving by car for a few hours is also not environmental friendly. Or that developing countries with their factories are much worse because of their extreme CO2 emissions.

Anna tries to find arguments to make cruises environmental friendly again. This results, at least for her, in staying true to her values, which she for herself claims as something positive.
What Anna used as an Argument there is one of three common defence mechanisms in the Dissonance Effect.

When faced with a situation such as Anna’s, we tend to either, like Anna, whitewash or greenwash something, ignore and deny everything or actually change our behaviour.

Well … you have guessed it, a change of behaviour is very unlikely and can only happen if we leave the emotional space and enter rational thoughts.

But how does this apply to branding?

Very simply put, you sell to people if you allow them to get what they want by staying true to the values of their self-image.

Staying at the image of Anna, how would you sell a cruise to her?

Advertisement is perceived in different ways. Sensory information such as colour, imagery and typography subconsciously evoke and create emotions. Only then, when the sensory information evokes our attention, speaking to our true sets of values, do we get aware of the advertisement. When the message of the advertisement provides us with an argument to support our self-setted values, we are immediately on board with it.

Our responsibility

People believe what they want to believe.

The truth may be something objective, but what people think is true or not is mostly subjective and based on multiple factors such as the dissonance effect but also past experiences and so on. Knowing this, we get the idea that we have a responsibility as brand strategists, marketers or advertisers because regardless, people believe what they are told

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